There are at least 33,000 cardiac operations performed in Great Britain and Ireland each year, requiring the expertise of the Clinical Perfusion Scientist. Clinical Perfusion Scientists are highly skilled professionals who manage the heart-lung (cardiopulmonary bypass) machine and therefore the patient's physiological parameters during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) procedures. When employing CPB the patient does not require his/her own heart and lungs to be functioning, as the bypass machine includes an artificial means of pumping blood around the body in place of the patient's own heart, and an artificial gas exchange device (oxygenator) to oxygenate the blood and remove excess carbon-dioxide in place of the patient's lungs. This allows the surgeon to perform the operation in a controlled manner, confident that the rest of the patient's organs and tissues are being adequately managed by the Clinical Perfusion Scientist. Operations can vary from heart valve repair or replacement, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, to heart and heart-lung transplantation. The age of the patient can vary from adults to the new-born who may have been born with malformations of the heart and surrounding vasculature and therefore require corrective cardiac surgery. The Clinical Perfusion Scientist’s main role is within the cardiac operating theatre, where he/she is an integral part of the cardiac surgical team. Along with the Clinical Perfusion Scientist this multi-disciplinary team comprises of the Surgeon, the Anaesthetist, the theatre scrub nurse, and assorted technical support staff including Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs) and Cardiology Technicians/Technologists. It is vital that this team works very closely together in an environment of mutual professional trust and confidence to progress the patients through their cardiac surgery, with the best and most appropriate care necessary. Few other professions offer such intimate team relationships coupled to such a high degree of direct personal responsibility.Due to their unique skills and experience in this clinical field, the Clinical Perfusion Scientist has in addition taken over a pivotal role in circulatory support, in the monitoring of vital parameters, in intra-operative blood processing techniques, in the interpretation of blood gas and blood chemistry values, in organ transplantation, in documentation and statistics, and in the participation in research. As well as this, the Clinical Perfusion Scientist will manage and operate mechanical cardiac assist devices including intra-aortic counter-pulsation.
The main body of the Clinical Perfusion Scientist’s work is centred on the management and supervision of the CPB machine during cardiac surgery. However, with the development of extracorporeal circulatory techniques and the increased expertise of Clinical Perfusion Scientists, their role has been extended to employment in a number of different sub-specialities:
All of the qualities and skills required of a Clinical Perfusion Scientist have to be supported by comprehensive scientific training. The training of the Clinical Perfusion Scientist is structured, involving practical training in a cardiac surgery clinical perfusion unit as well as formal academic training at the University of Bristol.The Bristol course enables students to gain an MSc in Perfusion Science. The course addresses both academic and professional needs by integrating academic knowledge and understanding with the practical requirements of the working professional Clinical Perfusion Scientist. Students attend university on block release each academic year. They are awarded the MSc provided that they also pass the Society’s professional accreditation examination.
The certificate of accreditation is awarded once the knowledge and practical ability to be a competent practising Clinical Perfusion Scientist has been established and the ability to work independently and participate in an "on-call" rota dealing with emergency and out of hours operations has been agreed. This is supported by the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Senate of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland who have ratified the following statement:
The following entry requirements apply for students wishing to commence the MSc Perfusion Science course at the University of Bristol who are currently employed in a clinical environment as a Trainee Clinical Perfusion Scientist within Great Britain and Ireland:
Alternative qualifications may be considered at the discretion of the Society and College of Clinical Perfusion Scientists of Great Britain and Ireland and the University of Bristol. To obtain a training post, you should either enquire directly with the Chief Clinical Perfusion Scientist at one of the Cardiac Centres, or you can find vacancies advertised on the England & Wales NHS Jobs website (www.jobs.nhs.uk) Scotland NHS Jobs website (www.jobs.scot.nhs.uk) or Ireland’s Health Service Executive website (www.hse.ie).
Initially Trainee Clinical Perfusion Scientists are employed and gain advancement by qualifying and by gaining experience or taking on extra roles and competencies. Clinical Perfusion Scientists are paid largely on Clinical Perfusion scales which compare with Clinical Scientist scales. Point of entry on to the appropriate pay-scale will depend on qualifications and experience. After qualification, progression to senior positions depend on special responsibilities, advanced qualifications, and/or significant involvement in clinical research work. Additional income for the qualified Clinical Perfusion Scientist is possible via participation in on-call rotas and overtime (see useful NHS Health Careers link below).
For more information please contact Ms Valerie Campbell (Administrator):
The Society of Clinical Perfusion Scientists of GB & I
The Royal College of Surgeons
35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3PE
Tel: 020 7869 6891